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The mascara you should never wear with contact lenses

Rebecca’s contact concern: I read at Consumer Reports.org that contact lens wearers should not use lash-extending mascaras because they contain microfibers that become trapped under the lens and scratch the cornea. What qualifies as a lash-extending mascara? Do the labels “lengthening” and “lash-extending” mean the same thing? Do they mean anything? If a mascara is labeled safe for contact lens wearers is it indeed safe?

The Left Brain’s cautionary contact connection:

Excellent question, Rebecca. I’m a big fan of Consumer Reports so I tracked down the article you referenced along with a few other resources. It turns out that there is a real reason for concern in this case.

Contact concern

After reading what Consumer Reports said I found another source, The Look You Like: Medical Answers to 400 Questions on Skin and Hair Care, that describes the basic problem: lash extenders consist of tiny synthetic fibers in a liquid base. When the liquid evaporates the fibers are left behind on the lashes, making them look longer. But as these fibers become loose they can stick get in your eye and become stuck to your contacts.

I found additional details in a 1985 New York Times article that quoted Dr. Oliver H. Dabezies Jr., a clinical professor of ophthalmology at Tulane Medical School. Dr. Dabezies specified that the synthetic fibers used in masacaras are actually nylon fibers. I thought it was interesting that he notes using cosmetics with soft contacts is particularly risky because those types of lenses “are like sponges that absorb everything, including mascara.” So soft lenses are prone to clouding due to absorbed bits of mascara while hard lenses can trap nylon fibers that can cause painful scratches which can lead to eye infections.

Safety testing

What about mascara that claims to be safe for contact-lens wearers? According to the article, “even these claims, however, do not indicate whether the products have been tested with all types of lenses. Maybelline’s mascaras, for example, though labeled ”safe with contact lenses,” were not tested with the new extended-wear lenses. Nor has Max Factor’s ”For Your Eyes Only” line.” I recognize that this article is a bit dated, but it does make me wonder if these companies have updated their testing.

Which brands contain nylon?

I did a quick search and found several brands that use Nylon-6 or Nylon-12.

Yves Saint Laurent MASCARA VOLUME EFFET FAUX CILS Luxurious Mascara

Volume.com mascara

The Body Shop mascara

Revlon Lash Fantasy Total Definition Primer & Mascara

You can do a quick check on your own brands by looking at the ingredient list for any chemicals that contain the term “nylon.”

The Beauty Brains bottom line

Based on what I’ve seen, if you wear contact lenses it might be wise to avoid using mascaras that contain nylon fibers. Product names like Longer Lash, Lush Lash, and Lash Lengthener, don’t really tell you very much, so to be safe you need to look at the ingredient list for any ingredient says “nylon.”


What do YOU think? Do you wear contacts? What kind of mascara do you use? Leave a lengthening comment for the rest of the Beauty Brains community.

Comments on this entry are closed.

  • Tracey January 8, 2014, 11:13 am

    I don’t know if this is the same thing but I have been to the opticians today for a contact lens check up following a check a month ago, the optician found some white marks which he said less contact lens wear would sort out. This proved not , so despite me wearing my glasses for most of the month, the marks are still there and after much deliberating the optician thinks it might be to do with my mascara. He thinks when I blink particles are carried down onto my eye and sit between the lens. Like I say I’m not sure this is linked but I do use lash lengthening mascara, maybelline.

  • Valerie Billings May 28, 2017, 9:38 pm

    I’m experiencing the redness and I’ve switched mascara. Today I tried Almay and the same thing happened- redness . I had to wear my glasses. I looked at the label and sure enough it says lengthy lashes. So I’m certain now that could be the problem since it has fibers.
    I’ll search for another brand tomorrow . I’ve always used Covergirl so I’ll see

  • Jane May 31, 2018, 3:06 am

    Rather concerned why my dailys are “foggy”. Could it be my benefit roller lash mascara ?

    • Perry Romanowski February 26, 2019, 10:31 am

      If you accidentally get some on the lens it could be.

    • amy August 11, 2019, 3:46 pm

      Did you ever find a solution to the fogginess? I use the same mascara and also experience ‘fogginess’ on my lenses. Curious to know if this mascara is the problem and if you found a better alternative!

  • Debbie Boardman January 8, 2019, 8:14 am

    I’ve been wearing lenses for several years (and mascara) and never experienced any problems.
    However, in the last month or so, my eyes have been irritable, red and weepy. I stopped using my lenses for a week or so, the problem cleared up and then it’s back.
    I tried a process of elimination, not really considering mascara. Then I remembered, I changed my mascara to Maybelline Falsies.
    I can confirm its that because I’ve used it again today and hey! Presto, red eye is back